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Judicial panel upholds state’s quarantine rules

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(The Center Square) — Critics of New York’s quarantine laws are vowing to press ahead with their legal challenge after a state appellate panel rejected their claims.

A 2022 law approved by the Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul, known as Rule 2.13, dramatically expanded the authority of the state health commissioner to require isolation or quarantines to prevent the spread of highly contagious diseases. The rules made permanent an emergency COVID-19 pandemic policy.

The move prompted the lawsuit by several Republican lawmakers, who argued that the expanded rules were unconstitutional overreach by the state government.

Last year, state Supreme Court Judge Ronald Ploetz ruled that the quarantine law violated the constitutional requirement for a separation of powers between the two branches of government. But the state appealed, and the New York state’s 4th Judicial Department recently overturned that decision.

Bobbie Anne Cox, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, blasted the appelate court’s decision, pointing out that its objections were based largely on whether the plaintiffs had a standing to bring the case, not whether the claim itself was legitimate.

“Unfortunately, this court has opened the door and paved the way for Hochul and her DOH to reissue this anti-freedom, anti-American regulation,” Cox said in a blog post. “Fire at will, is what the court has proverbially told them. There is nothing stopping the tyranny of the executive branch now.”

The rule allows the state commissioner of health to issue isolation or quarantine orders, and direct local health boards to follow suit. The guidelines state that in addition to someone’s home, isolation or quarantine may take place in emergency housing.

Hochul has defended the controversial policy amid claims on social media that she wants to use the policy to set up “quarantine camps” where people can be held against their will if they have COVID-19 or other diseases.

The lawmakers who filed the lawsuit sent a letter to Hochul last week, vowing to press ahead with the legal challenge and urging her not to reinstate the policy.

State Sen. George Borello, R-Sunset Bay, said the appelate court’s decision “conveniently sidestepped the important questions in this case about the constitutional separation of powers” raised by Ploetz in his ruling.

Borello said the plaintiffs are preparing to take their case to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.

“For us to let this stand unchallenged would pave the way for future abuses of power and loss of freedoms New Yorkers deserve and expect,” he said in a statement. “The Hochul administration can end this now by removing their support for this heinous regulation.”

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